Tag Archives: repentance

Advent: Making Space for God

Yesterday at church we moved into the Advent season with an interactive message that had us reflect on John the Baptist’s call to “make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23).  We littered our stage area with random “stuff,” blocking sight-lines to our worship team and speakers.  Then we sought to use John’s life and message as a template for how to prepare the way for Jesus through an often cramped and cluttered season.

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We talked about the importance of confession and repentance; two actions that help us de-clutter and throw off (cf. Hebrews 12:1) all the distractions that prevent us from beholding Jesus (cf. John 1:29).

We invited people to come forward, take an item from the front, and remove it.  Our goal was to make straight paths together.  Our aim was to create space for God.  Making space for God is not easy.  But when we clear out the distractions that interfere with us beholding Jesus, we encounter him in new and life-giving ways.  Perhaps most importantly, when we create space for God, He fills our emptied spaces with more of His presence, love, grace, and power.

As the Advent season unfolds, here are a few resources you may find helpful as you seek to create space for God in your life.  As you use them, may God fill the spaces you open up for Him (however meagre) with new life and new hope in Jesus.

A daily video series that the 24-7 prayer movement has produced for this Advent season looks incredible! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1_0WFGKEr8&feature=youtu.be&list=UUJuxgOp1QBXfb-qFQONAtiA

A local pastor Chris Schoon is writing daily advent reflections here: www.muddiedprayers.com 

I wrote a series of daily devotionals for Advent last year. Here’s the first: http://meredisciple.com/2013/12/first-week-of-advent-sunday-december-1st/  (Just search “Monday, December 2nd”, “Tuesday, December 3rd”, etc. for the subsequent days on my site)

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Third Week of Advent: Saturday, December 21st

Luke 3:1–6

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. 5 Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. 6 And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’ ”

I’m continually surprised by Christians I meet who live their lives as if sincere and genuine repentance doesn’t need to be a trademark of their lifestyles.  It seems a lot of us are under the assumption that we should “try” to do our best to follow Jesus, but in the end, we’ve got our lives to live.  I guess we assume that God will do what God will do, and that since we’re saved, we can ease off on the gas pedal of discipleship.

And then we wonder why our experience of God and the Christian faith is so shallow and uninspired.

While it’s true that God’s love for us isn’t dependent on our faithfulness to Him, it is true that the depth and quality of our lives is significantly connected to how seriously we take living out the way of Jesus.

That’s why John is sent ahead of Jesus.  John’s message is that repentance is the door into the life God is opening up to us.  We are not saved by “good deeds,” (Ephesians 2:8-9) but we cannot be saved if we don’t repent (“turn away”) from lives where our values and happiness are central.

Martin Luther wrote that, “All of life is repentance.”  To grow as a Christian means an almost continual practice of redirecting one’s energy away from habits that glorify ourselves and prioritize our agendas, to habits that glorify God and make His Kingdom the central priority.

This Advent, where do you sense God’s call to repent and change direction in your life?

 

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First Week of Advent: Thursday, December 5th

“6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” John 1:6-9

In order to get people ready to embrace Jesus and his message, God sends a man named John the Baptist (Jesus’ cousin) to be Jesus’ forerunner.

John’s life and proclamation is so powerful, he has to continually deny being the Messiah himself.  His role, he says, is to point people towards the light.  John was:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’” Isaiah 40:3

John prepared the way for the Lord by calling people to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:1).

“Completely change how you’re living, because the rule and reign of God is hear!”

Today it seems strange to us that a God of love would make any demands of us.  After all, doesn’t God love us unconditionally?  But that line of thinking misses the point of love.  Love wants the best for us.  And Love is more than willing to confront the attitudes, actions, and motivations that keep us from the taking hold of the incomparable life He offers us.  That’s because Love meets us where we are, but never keeps us as we are.  Genuine love, and certain the great Lover Himself, loves us into a new identity and a new way of being.

In preparing ourselves to encounter Jesus in new ways this Advent season, in what areas of your life is God calling you to prepare the way through repentance, so that the kingdom of heaven can draw near?

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